The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (

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Saturday, September 28, 2002
Policy Drivers: Telecommunications Report Issued by ITU. A new report by the International Telecommunications Union ranked 200 economies on their performance in mobile telecommunications and Internet technologies, as well as for their ability to take advantage of future developments in these fields. The top ten in descending order in the rankings were: Hong Kong, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Norway, South Korea, Britain, Netherlands and Iceland. The document also provides a summary of a number of important telecommunications trends worldwide. The executive summary of the document is available at: (162)

Friday, September 27, 2002
Public Services. Minnesota in Top Ranks of Legislative Webpages. Three professors from Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Liberal Arts presented their study, The Politics of State Legislature Web Sites: An Evaluation of Content and Design, at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Boston earlier this month. The study looked at the content available to the average citizen and the "expert" user-the journalist and lobbyist who would use such sites to track legislation, committee meetings, press releases, etc.-and how easily information could be accessed, says Paul Ferber, professor of political science at RIT. Ferber and his co-authors, Franz Foltz, professor of science, technology and society, and Rudy Pugliese, professor of communication, analyzed and rated the state legislatures’ Web sites based on content, usability (including site design, ease of navigation and accessibility of information), interactivity (features promoting user/government communication) and identification of the sponsor who owns and controls the content of the site. According to the study, the states with the highest quality Web sites were New Jersey, Minnesota, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Connecticut. The full press release from which this summary was drawn is at: (161)

Thursday, September 26, 2002
Citizens and Democracy. Carnegie Mellon Team Wins $2.1 Million to Build Online Forum for Citizen Deliberation. The National Science Foundation has given a grant to Carnegie Mellon University to develop software to better enable online for a for citizen deliberation. The three-year $2.1 million grant supports a Carnegie Mellon University team of "electronic democracy" researchers. The research team, led by faculty members Peter M. Shane, Peter Muhlberger and Robert Cavalier, seeks to develop and test software that would enable large numbers of citizens to use the Internet more effectively to learn about, deliberate and act upon community issues. The "Virtual Agora Project" named for the ancient Athenian marketplace will seek to identify how information technology can best be used to support "electronic democracy" and to demonstrate the value of computer-mediated communication for building a widespread and inclusive political community. Through a variety of experiments and comparisons between online deliberation and face-to-face dialogue, the team hopes to learn about how online communication affects its participants and how it contributes to the quality of their decision-making. The software they develop could lead to new forms of online civic engagement, including public hearings to inform government decision-making processes, new forms of public opinion polling, and new tools for community organizing and problem solving. The software, including so-called "audio bulletin boards," will be designed to be accessible to anyone with a modem and modest computing power. Peter M. Shane, a principal investigator on the project and director of Carnegie Mellon's Institute for the Study of Information Technology and Society (InSITeS), said, "The Virtual Agora Project will be a major leap forward in both our understanding of how people's knowledge and values are affected by online deliberation and the translation of that understanding into usable software." (160)

Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Public Services: e-Learning Accelerates for Federal Government Employees. The Office of Personnel Management and the Transportation Department backed by the Office of Management and Budget unveiled a new web site in July that offers the same services as the FasTrac program. The two are promoting the Gov Online Learning Center, at, as a one-stop, e-learning portal for federal employees. They kicked off the site by offering 30 free courses to federal agencies for use by their employees. The new site actually is an extension of Transportation’s Virtual University, an e-learning site that already was used by other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development departments. In the Navy alone since launching its related e-learning site in May 2001, sailors and civilians have taken about 35,000 online courses. The Navy site is one face of a large FasTrac e-learning system for civilian and military employees. The full source article for this entry may be found at: (159)

Tuesday, September 24, 2002
K-12 Education: Mixed Results on Third and Fifth Grade Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. An article by Norman Draper in the September 24, 2002 Star Tribune reported on test results for Minnesota third-and fifth-graders. Results showed mixed gains and losses on state math, reading and writing tests this year after three years of almost across-the board gains. Fifth-grade math results also showed improvement. But results for fifth-grade reading and third-grade reading remained unchanged from last year. Third-graders do not take a writing test. Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments are part of a set of state tests to measure academic skills. Students must pass basic skills tests in math, reading and writing in order to graduate from high school. The full article is at: (158)

Monday, September 23, 2002
Post-Secondary Education. Report Finds Minority Ranks Rise Sharply on US Campuses But Gender Gap and Completion Rate Issues Advance. An article by Diana Jean Schemo in the September 23, 2002 New York Times describes a report by the American Council on Education that found that the number of minority students attending American colleges and universities jumped 48 percent in the 1990's, with all minorities posting double-digit gains in college enrollment. It found that total minority enrollment in institutions of higher education had increased to four million in 1999 from 2.7 million in 1990, with gains of 68.3 percent among Latinos, 31.6 percent among blacks and 58.9 percent among Asian-Americans. From 1990 to 2000, the share of African-Americans in the 24- to 29-year-old group with college degrees rose to 17.5 percent from 13.4 percent. Among Latinos in the same age group, 9.7 percent earned college degrees in 2000, up from 8.1 percent in 1990. There is a growing distance in college enrollment between black men and women. College attendance among African-American women under 25 increased 4 percent that year, to 43.9 percent, but declined for men by 5 percent, to 33.8 percent. In a single year, the report noted, the gender gap among African-Americans increased to 10 percent from 1 percent. Graduation rates tell a different story. Graduation rates within six years were 66 percent for Asian Americans, 59 percent for Caucasians, 46 percent for Latinos and 38 percent for black and Native American college students. The full story is online at: (157)

Sunday, September 22, 2002
K-12 Education: Dismal School Completion Rate for Native American Students in Minneapolis School District. The September issue of The Circle: Native American News and Arts reported on a community meeting on school dropout rates among Native American students. The article reports that statistics from last year indicated that 85% of Native American students do not complete high school. Nationwide the number is 30% who do not complete high school. No explanations were offered in the article for this vast disparity in outcomes. "For Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson the abysmal state of Native education under her watch is an embarrassment." The article also reported on a state-funded program called Success for the Future. Tim Brown, who is coordinator of the program, is attempting to reach 200 Native students in the district's seven largest high schools and to convince them to stay in school. The Citizens League report: "A Failing Grade for School Completion" offered a number of recommendations related to this ongoing crisis (see: The full article by Jon Lurie for The Circle is at: